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Under Armour wasn’t totally alone, either, by the time Utah signed on. As a part of the USA deal, Under Armour partnered with GK Elite to manufacture leotards.

That expertise can be valuable. A reliable gymnastics leotard not only maximizes confidence and minimizes distraction, it can directly affect scores. Athletes can face point deductions for minor wardrobe malfunctions or for adjusting their uniforms during competition.

“GK has had a long, very positive image in the gymnastics community,” said Marsden. “What they gave Under Armour the ability to do is provide their customers instantly a high-quality product with imaginative designs.”

Along with GK, the gymnasts themselves can lend expertise to their new outfitter. Nelligan said that his athletes at Maryland have already provided feedback on the leotards.

That’s typical strategy for Under Armour, said Auburn Bell, vice president of corporate marketing at Legg Mason Inc., and affiliate marketing professor at Loyola University Maryland. He expects the company is doing the same with the elite gymnasts on the “Road to Rio.”

“It’s more than just the typical sponsorship of striking a deal to put their logo on the uniform,” he said. “They really focus more on getting in the trenches with the athletes and working with them to understand from the bottom up what their needs are.”

Officials with Under Armour and USA Gymnastics declined to be interviewed for this story.

While its college contracts have covered all kinds of sports, including the mainstream crowd pleasers like football, Under Armour’s Olympics approach has been more niche.

In addition to speedskating, the company outfitted bobsledding, skeleton and Canadian snowboarding in the Winter Olympics.

Gymnastics, while popular during the Olympics, yields lackluster ratings otherwise. The 2013 P&G; Championships had about 2.7 million viewers, according to “TV by the Numbers.” But prime-time coverage of the 2012 Olympic gymnastics finals had 38.7 million, according to Nielsen.

Niche sports provide the opportunity to innovate without the threat of competition from larger rivals like Nike and Adidas, which have focused on different areas. Then, by the time the Olympics come around, said Bell, the product is refined for the global stage.

“What Under Armour can do with these more narrow and niche type of verticals . it gives them the opportunity on this big stage, with a lot less risk and potentially great reward,” said Bell.

Sometimes that doesn’t work out, as with speedskating, he said. But the impact at Sochi was mitigated by the specificity of the sport and the presence of other complicating factors.

And if the next Summer Olympics is anything like the last one, the gymnastics reward could far outweigh the risk.

“You’ve got these opportunities like the Olympics that sort of instantly give you, or a company, or a brand worldwide and global kind of recognition and promotion,” said Bell. “That’s an incredible opportunity for that company.”

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